Thursday, November 30, 2006

Dr. Lee Camp Injustice

I plan on cancelling my subscription to The Tennessean today. I am completely disgusted with how they have just dropped the whole issue like it never happened once their grievious error was revealed.

Below is an email letter that sent to the Tennessean reporter who misquoted Lee Camp badly in the Nov. 29 artcle, Christians must 'let go' some beliefs for sake of peace, theologian says. I copied several editors at the Tennessean as well. This is a link to Lee's rebuttal in today's Tennessean.

When I read your article of Wed. 11/29/2006 quoting Lee Camp, I was aghast knowing that all hell was going to break loose on Dr. Camp. I count Lee as a friend, a mentor, and I feel I understand his beliefs well.

Your isolated quotes were a severe misrepresentation of Dr. Camp's beliefs and his actual statements at the conference. A wise woman counseled me "not to ascribe to malevolence what may be ascribed to ignorance." However, your article had the appearance of sensationalism rather than just bad reporting.

I feel the manner in which you represented Dr. Camp was irresponsible journalism. It is also part of a growing trend of bad reporting and sensationalism I have witnessed in the Tennessean. There seems to be an eroding concern for contextual accuracy and more concern on creating controversy in order to make money. Unfortunately, the article may have done just that. The Tennessean management may be ecstatic over the firestorm.

This type of reporting only undermines your readers' trust. I am very skeptical of anything I read in the paper based on the discrepancies between what was reported and of which I had personal knowledge involving several stories over the years. Don't you think anyone you try to interview from this point on will be wary of your methods and intentions? Does this not make your job more difficult?

Although the Tennessean allowed Dr. Camp to reply, it does not undo the damaging spirit of your article nor the change the method of reporting.

I am a Nashville native and via my parents' subscriptions and my own subscription, I have been reading the Tennessean for most of my 44 years. This may be the straw that breaks the camel's back. I am seriously considering dropping my subscription.

I believe the Tennessean and yourself owe a public apology to Dr. Camp and to Lipscomb University--on the front page. Allowing Dr. Camp a rebuttal is not an apology for irresponsible journalism.


JMG said...

Good letter!

I don't take that rag myself, so I was just wondering if the original story appeared on the front page, and if so, was Lee's rebuttal on the front page as well?

Jana said...

tony - good job! did they print it?

jettybetty said...

I gave up my newspaper about 3 years ago. I don't miss it.

Where did they print Lee's rebuttal today today? I understand the original story was on the front page?

I hope they print your letter, too.

Please keep us posted!

Jeff said...

To anyone still wondering, Lee's rebuttal was stuck on the 3rd page of section B (Local section). What a crock.

Tony, I'm with you. Unless I see an apology on the front page, with something at least saying, "the Tennessean regrets the error," I'm writing to cancel my subscription. It does nothing more than fill up my recycle box anyway.

I suggest anyone else that cares do the same.

Phil said...

If I don't have a subscription (and haven't in years), do I have to stop reading it online, since I don't pay for it?

Tony Arnold said...

Here is the sequence for everyone.

11/28/2006: Initial and great distortion of the truth printed on front page. Lee is crucified on the Tennessean website.

11/29/2006: Tennessean has 2 small teasers on the front page: 1) "Christianity talk sparks wave of religious debate." 2) "Theologian disputes how article described his talk".

Tennessean prints Lee's rebuttal w/o any comment on their own culpability on the 3rd page of the local section. They also print many of the negative website comments, although they are all made about a false statement.

11/30/2006: Absolutely no mention on the whole mess they stirred up. However, they did print 2 letters to the Editor that blasted Lee supposed comments. It was obvious that the letters were written before Lee's rebuttal. I would suspect the letter writers are embarrassed and likely ticked off that the Tennessean printed them knowing they were generated based on false article.

The Tennessean attitude about the whole thing is look what a wonderful controversy we stirred up.

They are nothing more than a tabloid in this case. Looks like I will be cancelling my subscription. I am fuming right now.

But God promised that the truth would suffer for His cause.

BTW, I received no response from anyone at the Tennessean about my email.

Tony Arnold said...

Phil, obviously you are free to do as you wish, but don't you find it hard to provide any support based on how they skewered Lee? For me, it just completely undermined any confidence I can have on any article they print. It is not just about Lee. What other articles have been handled the same way?

When you lie, you kill integrity.

FYI: Accessing online is free, but generates revenue for them. Their ability to secure advertsing dollars on the website is based on the statistics of hits and downloads. The more they get, the higher the rates they can charge.

This whole thing boils down to money for them. They care little about the truth, the readers, or the subjects of their articles. I am sure many of the writers are good people, but they are in a corrupt system.

All my opinion of course.

jettybetty said...

How is Lee (and his family) doing?
I pray God is their strength.

Tony Arnold said...

I have left a message for Lee but have not talked to him personally yet. As you can imagine, I get his voice mail when I call.


jettybetty said...

I know God will defend Lee and I don't have to--but there's times I really don't like the blogosphere. I've seen the original article quoted several times (and taken even further out of context IMHO)--yet no mention of the rebuttal. They might just be ignorant and not knows it's there--but in one case (on Spunky's blog) I think it's just used to make a point. I will keep praying for Lee. I appreciate the updates.

Malia said...

I can't help but to wonder about the good that can come out of this. The attention on Lee while initially negative and taken out of context, seems to me, has opened many doors for people to know about him and his book and the things he is teaching. People who may have never known about Lee and Mere Discipleship. Jesus didn't always get "good press" but his message still spread. Don't get me wrong, I'm not exactly likening Lee to Jesus but I do feel that he has written an extraordinary book that has benefitted many people and could benefit even more now that his name is almost a Nashville house-hold word.

I'm still ticked off with the Tennessean, though not surprised at the whole debacle.

Tony Arnold said...

I agree with you Malia about the exposure. God uses all to His glory.

jettybetty said...

I don't know how God will do it--but I pray there will be good come from it--I love to hear how you all think it might happen--that is a good book! ;-)!

thundersbe said...

There was a discussion about the Lee Camp quote on the Grace-Centered Message forum and as you read through the thread you'll find information from people who were there and links to even the Tennessean article that stated he might have been misquoted.

The Tennessean dropped the ball big time by misquoting Dr. Camp. The reporter should be fired. Link: Lee Camp quote discussed.

Stoned-Campbell Disciple said...

I agree the Tennessean did a very poor job with Camp. It also shows just how little real understanding there is in the journalistic corp on religious matters.

Bobby Valentine

Anonymous said...

I am an outsider to the Tennessean specific issues that are discussed here.
However, I have knowledge of Dr. Camp and his thesis, as he wrote clearly and unambiguously in his excellent book “Mere Discipleship: Radical Christianity In A Rebellious World”, which I recommend any time I have the chance.
My little bit of wisdom about reporters and news outlets is this; of the three times in my life when I have personally appeared in news stories, only one did not misquote me or pull my words from their context and with malice place them in a context, of which I had no knowledge.
The misquote event was simple ignorance of the reporter. He had a story to write and needed filler information for that story. Therefore, he never heard what I said. He only knew what his story was and thought that the things that I was telling him fit his preconceived “facts”.

This type of error is common in everything that involves writing. When I post my blogs, I know what I am thinking and will read those words into my writing, even if I have left out a line or doubled up a word. This is the true purpose of an editor.
My wife will proof my stuff, because she is not tainted by preconceived “facts.”

But, even this type of editing could not help the reporter who published a half-dozen errors about my statement and me. How could the reporter’s editor have known that he didn’t hear 33% of what I told him? The only way these types of errors can be avoided is to have two reporters working each and every interview. This cannot happen. It is cost prohibitive to have two reporters doing each interview. Even if there’s a photojournalist present and she thinks that the print-journalist is getting it wrong, she is not in a position to second-guess the individual who is trained to listen and write fast.

The other reporting error that affected me however, was not a mistake. It was done with malicious intent. My words were purposefully placed into a context that had no relation to my discussion with the reporter.
She asked questions and followed with conversation that was intended to gain trust. Then as the interview continued she asked for my address, “just to confirm that I resided in the area" of the story. When the story was published she included my home address along with the incredibly vile misquotes. The two weeks following the story I had tons of anonymous hate mail.

I will no longer give statements to reporters.
If I am not providing them with my own written statement, then I have nothing to say. It is not that I mistrust all reporters. But, the likelihood of error is too great.

Dr. Camp, as a public figure, is not likely to be able to just offer no comment. But, what he might do for future encounters is to only offer comments when he gets a commitment from the reporter, that he will be allowed to pre-read and correct errors before publication.

Scott Starr said...

I am coming in on this discussion late- but in case you didn't see Camp's answer to the dilemma i have it posted HERE

He did a fine job.